Blog Post

Video from Annotation Studio in the Classroom and in Research

Annotation Studio is an easy-to-use, free, and open source digital annotation tool designed by MIT’s HyperStudio, in consultation with academic instructors and researchers. In this webinar, led by Kurt Fendt, Executive Director of HyperStudio, and Jamie Folsom, Lead Developer for HyperStudio, you get an array of example cases from instructors who have used Annotation Studio in the classroom, as well as examples of how to use the tool for your research. In all, you are provided with a range of constructive and innovative assignments for students that focus their attention on careful reading and analytical writing while creating a dynamic social classroom environment.

Collective Notes:

  • Developed out of a need for tools to support close reading, inter-media reading
  • Driven out of a  need for educational purposes -- deliberately aiming for students, classrooms,
  • Now the capacity to annotate with different types of media - not just add text annotations, but also images and other media
  • TAGS!!!
  • +1 For Syntax highlighting!!! :-)

Further information


  • Annotation on scanned PDFs from book chapters? Landscape mode, two pages per sheet, including images and charts. Very common use in the humanities, important for visual alignment and familiarity with printed version. supports this, and currently we are piloting this in a Religion class.
    • not currently working very well in Annotation Studio.
  • LTI integration? Important for faculty here to ensure adoption -- reluctance to have students sign up for yet another third party account. Currently we have developed an LTI wrapper around that works really well within our Moodle installation: user info gets automatically pulled in from Moodle, no extra sign-in required by students and faculty.
    • BTW, we’d be happy to share our LTI integration wrapper code with you if you’d like -- it’s for NB, but there may be pieces of it that can provide a wrapper for AnnotationStudio as well. We’re also active supporters of open source collaboration.
  • Would you talk at some point about what provision you have/are making for accessibility...students/learners who may need to access the tool in different ways?
    • screen reader seems to be effective - they have integrated keyboard selection for the next version of the annotator
    • Maybe add opportunity to add alt txt to images added to annotations
  • Would we need to install an instance on our campus servers, or can we use this as a web-based app?
    • hosted on subdomain, you can access it via MIT
    • OR as a hosted sub-domain
  • What format do docs need to be?
    • Seems like Word, PDF, text doc (.txt) works
      • PDF: Must be simple text -- formatting will be stripped out.
      • Must have OCR/text layer
  • Is it possible for simultaneous synchronous during a class session? Limitations? Buggy?
    • refresh the browser to see latest annotations
    • fosters in-class discussions about annotations
  • Are group names case-sensitive? Do all users have access to adding themselves to any groups?
    • All users have access to all groups. If you don’t want outsiders, hint: name your group something illegible, like “b717894lakf7.”
  • Does this work well across platforms? (mobile??)
    • Tablets and phones, yes
    • Touch-technology doesn’t work as well as in desktop browsers but it’s possible to use.
  • What was the program combined with Annotation Studio that enable the annotation of maps? I didn’t catch the name.
    • I just googled it. It’s Locast.
  • Has anyone used in an online class? I assume the potential for collaboration is essentially the same?
  • How would this work with digital collections such as letters?

Ideas for use of Annotation Studio in the classroom and in research

  • could be used for student peer feedback
  • great as homework (accountability/we all can see that you did your work), then discuss in person
  • historical documents (including things like recipes!) with ability to have them annotate with images and other media
  • Annotate poetry and computer code (critical code studies)
  • thinking of using during a faculty development institute-to guide conversation around preparatory readings we will have faculty do. I love the idea of doing this together as a group in a live session. Maybe even annotating at the beginning of our week and re-reading annotations at the end of the week for new understandings/insights. So powerful to be able to add illustrative material to the annotation - images, video, other links, etc. Excellent!
  • have lit/theatre students annotate plays with visual representations of sections of the text
  • great for poetry and code!
  • Have students annotate with notes from other editions/translations/sources -- great way to compare moments across times/editions etc.
  • Make student thought visible to  other students -- rather than one at a time speaking, they can see other thoughts at the same time, if you’re doing it in-person at the same time
  • language learning
  • One of my faculty members is using online annotation as preparation for in-class discussion: students work in pairs to annotate an in-the-margins discussion on assigned reading, then in class lead discussion based on their prior interaction online. The professor loves the resulting discussion -- he knows from skimming the annotations before class precisely which pages generated the most discussion and during class he can direct conversation toward those “hot” points.
  • great tool for making multiple interpretation actually tangible in texts!

Biographies of the webinar leaders:

  • Dr. Kurt Fendt is Principal Research Associate in Comparative Media Studies/Writing (CMS/W) and Executive Director of HyperStudio – Digital Humanities at MIT. He teaches Digital Humanities subjects in CMS/W and German Studies courses in Foreign Languages and Literatures. Fendt has held Visiting Professorships at the University of Cologne, the Technical University of Aachen (both Germany), and the University of Klagenfurt, Austria; in 2001 he was Visiting Scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute in Sankt Augustin, Germany. He is co-Principal Investigator of the NEH-funded Annotation Studio: Multimedia Annotation for Students, the Comédie-Française Registers Project, the US-Iran – Missed Opportunities project, the d’Arbeloff-funded Metamedia project, co-Director of Berliner sehen, a collaborative hypermedia learning environment for German Studies (funded by NEH), co-author of the French interactive narrative A la rencontre de Philippe (CD-ROM version), and co-author of a range of other digital humanities projects. Since 2005, he has been organizing the MIT European Short Film Festival. Before coming to MIT in 1993, Fendt was Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bern in Switzerland, where he established the Media Learning Center for the Humanities and earned his Ph.D. in modern German literature with a thesis on hypertext and text theory in 1993 after having completed his MA at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany.

  • Jamie Folsom is lead web applications developer at MIT Hyperstudio, where he builds tools to support teaching and research in the humanities. He participates in all aspects of the lab’s work, from consulting with faculty and collaborating with partners, to creating and deploying web apps and services. He has extensive experience teaching with and about technology, managing technology projects, and building web sites and applications. He holds an AB in French from Vassar College and a Master’s Degree in Technology in Education from Harvard University, and has been a teacher, a technology trainer and manager, and a web applications developer for 20 years. He is from Boston, Massachusetts.


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